Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

CASEY Eugene né le 18 décembre 1928 
dans le diocèse de Kerry (Irlande
membre de la SMA le 29 juin 1948
prêtre le 18 juin 1952
décédé le 28 avril 2004

1952-1967 diocèse de Benin City, Nigeria
1968-1971 maisons sma, Wilton, Doughcloyne, Cork
1971-1972 diocèse de Salford, Angleterre
1972-1995 Blackrock Road, emplois divers
1995-2004 Blackrock Road, retiré

décédé à Cork, Sainte Thérèse, le 28 avril 2004,
à l'âge de 75 ans

Father Eugene (Owen) CASEY (1928 2004)

Eugene Casey was born in Tournonagh, Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry, in the diocese of Kerry, on 18th December 1928.
He died in St. Theresa’s Nursing Unit, SMA house, Blackrock Road, Cork, on 28th April 2004.

Eugene Casey was born into a farming family near Gneeveguilla, Co Kerry. His parents were William and Ellen (nee Herlihy). Eugene attended primary school in the parishes of Kilcummin and Scartaglen. He received his secondary education in the Society’s Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, and in St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, Cork, graduating with Matriculation and Leaving Certificate in 1946. He then entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co. Galway. Two years later, in 1948, he was promoted to the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Eugene was first received as a member of the Society on 28th June 1948. He became a permanent member on 11th June 1951. Eugene was ordained a priest in St. Colman’s Cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, on 18th June 1952. He was one of a group of ten ordained on that occasion.

After ordination Eugene was appointed to the diocese of Benin City in mid-western Nigeria. He was to serve four tours of duty in this jurisdiction, until October 1967, when he was invalided home. A pictorial article in the Cork Weekly Examiner, dated 15 October 1959, described Eugene’s work in Benin City diocese where he was parish priest of Ashaka, a town in the Nigeria Delta. The article – filling a page – described the low-lying swampy area, the paucity of dry land, the prevalence of the mosquito; and recorded the day-to-day life of the riverine missionary, visiting his outstations by canoe, his feet rarely on dry land. Before coming to Ashaka Eugene had ministered in Warri, where he assisted Michael Foley. He had also ministered briefly in Benin City and Agbor (to which he was to return later). But he is most associated with Ashaka where he gave his longest period of service. Here, not only did he roof the church and build numerous schools in the outstations but, quietly and unobtrusively, he created a strong, loyal community of Christians.

Eugene came to Nigeria during colonial times. His departure took place in the aftermath of the dreadful Nigerian Civil war (1966-1970). Indeed he was truly a victim of that war for in Agbor, where he was stationed in the early stages of the war, he witnessed scenes of unspeakable horror and human degradation. His own arrest and torture as a foreign mercenary was an ordeal which was truly dreadful. Inevitably his experiences took a huge toll on his health. From that time forward Eugene was never again to experience what might be regarded as robust health. On his return to Ireland he underwent hospital treatment and a period of recuperation, during which he took charge of the Society’s farm at Wilton. He then felt well enough to get back to work and requested permission to return to Benin City diocese or its offshoot, the recently created Warri diocese. Plans were made for his return, however he suffered a relapse and it was felt that it would be unwise to expose him again to tropical conditions.

In July 1971 Eugene was seconded to the British Province where he undertook promotion work. Three months later he took up a pastoral post in Salford diocese (St. Peter’s parish, Mill Hill, Blackburn), but ill-health soon intervened and he returned to Blackrock Road in January of the following year. His next appointment was to the Family Vocations Crusade Office at Blackrock Road. Despite being often unwell, Eugene had a strong desire to exercise his pastoral ministry. Occasionally he was able to fulfil this desire by supplying for his fellow-priests. Among those who benefited from his services in this respect were Tom Duffy and Joe Barrett, both confreres. Eugene first became associated with the Mite-Box Apostolate in August 1974. This involved extensive travel in Ireland, staying over-night in Bed and Breakfast accommodation or in presbyteries, and visiting commercial premises during the day to collect the SMA’s St. Anthony boxes. Eugene undertook this arduous work with enthusiasm and his efforts met with success.

In 1979 Eugene took a well-earned sabbatical leave, spending a year studying at Maynooth College, while residing in the SMA house nearby. In 1980 he returned to the Mite-Box Apostolate working for a further five years before ill-health caused him to retire from this work. Eugene attended to his Mite-Box apostolate with diligence and determination, heading out in all weathers and carrying out his work with a gentleness and efficiency which won the respect of all who came in contact with him. He is fondly remembered by many a shopkeeper who was the recipient of his quiet and respectful attention. During the late 1980’s Eugene was frequently hospitalised. Eventually his health improved and in 1991 he was able to take on the post of House Oratory Sacristan at Blackrock Road. He discharged his duties with exactitude and good humour until 1995 when he retired from the active ministry. Eugene enjoyed the first years of his retirement, but gradually fell into ill-health – he contracted a brain disorder - and was eventually moved into St. Theresa’s Nursing Unit. He died peacefully at 9.50 on the evening of Wednesday, April 28th 2004, in the presence of members of his family, of confreres and the nursing staff.

Eugene celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood on 18th June 2002, hard to believe at the time, as he always had a youthful look about him. A prayerful man, with a strong devotion to Our Lady, Eugene lived quietly and unobtrusively in the Blackrock Road Community for many years winning the love and respect of his confreres. The homilist at his funeral Mass remarked that ‘One of his most endearing
characteristics was his faithful and persevering service to the mission of SMA in spite of ill-health. In everything that Eugene did he was the essence of decency, courtesy and gentleness.’ Up to the last years of his life he enjoyed pipe-smoking and when relaxing looked the picture of contentment. As his health deteriorated many people outside the SMA community commented on his gentleness.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.